For Smetana, the cruel reality is that this was looking to be a great year for the shelter. He says they had a large number of fundraisers planned and donations were coming in daily. Helping Hands also received a roof donation from Above and Beyond at the tail end of 2019. That good fortune all changed when the COVID pandemic became a reality and quarantine was put into place.

It’s rare to find a business that wasn’t affected in some way by the COVID pandemic. However, it’s also fair to say that some were affected more than others. When it comes to Helping Hands Homeless Shelter in Camdenton, the toll was high. Still, Director Mark Smetana is confident they will make it through the tough winter months ahead, but they will need as much help from the community as they can get.

For Smetana, the cruel reality is that this was looking to be a great year for the shelter. He says they had a large number of fundraisers planned and donations were coming in daily. Helping Hands also received a roof donation from Above and Beyond at the tail end of 2019. That good fortune all changed when the COVID pandemic became a reality and quarantine was put into place.

Now, with social gatherings being limited, fundraisers for the shelter have been cut to almost none. Without community fundraising and support from organizations like the Knights of Columbus and local churches, the shelter is currently keeping their heads afloat through state grants.

“Our funds are coming pretty much from grants and getting the word out. We’re hurting,” Smetana said.

One silver lining for the shelter is that they were well stocked on toiletries before the pandemic and avoided a massive disparity when the public craze of toilet paper hoarding began. Smetana joked that, at the time, he felt like they could trade their toilet paper reserves like gold.

The shelter currently houses around 25 people, including children. Smetana says they have been full most of the year. Helping Hands isn’t a come-and-go shelter; Smetana says their goal is to give people a place to stay for multiple months at a time while they reintegrate into society. Because of this, keeping a steady supply of food and cleaning supplies and also keeping up with utility costs has been difficult for the shelter.

Facing the lake’s should season and the winter months ahead, Smetana is still confident that they will be just fine. In order to do so, he says they will need an increase in donations of all kinds. That starts by spreading awareness that the shelter operates in the area at all, as Smetana says he is surprised by how many people will tell him that they didn’t even know a homeless shelter existed at the lake.

Helping Hands is currently in the process of gaining extra grant money to get their colling and heating fixed and needs any funds and donations available from the public to keep their vital services alive and well.

“These months will be tough, but I know we’ll make it through,” Smetana said.

For those looking to donate, the shelter currently most needs cleaning supplies of all kinds. Food and monetary donations are also in high demand. All donations will be accepted.

Lake Area Helping Hands Homeless Shelter can be found at 68 Holden Dr, Camdenton, MO 65020.